Video Refreshes Elementary Art Classes

Photo: Gaus Working with Student

“Hello, Elmwood artists!” sings teacher Bonnie Gaus, greeting students in each of her new video demonstrations prepared for her second and third-grade art classes. This year Gaus has begun producing short videos for her students to communicate directions, demonstrations, as well as a whole lot of creative fun.

Meeting 23 classes of second and third graders in a single week means a whole lot of students make their way through her art classroom. Working with every one of the more than 500 students at Elmwood Elementary poses a different kind of challenge. Veteran art teacher Gaus was inspired to try something new this year and making videos for her students has reignited her teaching.

“I saw other teachers doing it on YouTube. And I thought this would be great when I introduce choices because this is a choice-based classroom,” Gaus said. “I teach skills, not specific projects. I show them how to use the different tools and then they choose their subject matter.”

The videos Gaus has already produced have changed her classroom. Part demonstration of artistic techniques, part explicit direction about getting started and cleaning up, Gaus’ foray into video production has already had some significant benefits.

“I am able to show everything visually and write it down, so they can watch and read it. Each kid gets the same exact information. And they just retain it better. With the video, I don’t know what it is, but they are completely enthralled,” Gaus explained.

Third-grader Elena noticed some other advantages, as well. “You can turn up the volume and hear it better. Since the screen is so big, everyone can see it. If she is sitting right there and trying to show us, some people won’t be able to see or hear her.”

Photo: Art Students WorkingAnother factor that has helped Gaus involves time management. Each art class only lasts forty minutes, once a week, which means time is particularly precious. The video production process has helped Gaus revisit all her demonstrations with an eye squarely focused on duration.

“I can look at the video and it helps me to make things concise. Since art is so short, I want to keep the demos between 4 and 7 minutes,” Gaus said, maximizing the time that students have to be creative and engage in making art. “It forces me to make information as clear and concise as I can.”

Third-grader Lila has enjoyed the new effort, “They are funny and they teach you new things. It is kind of easier to understand, instead of her talking directly. When you watch the videos you can tell better what she is saying, because before she might have to repeat if some kids are talking over her.”

“I won’t forget to tell them something. They are all engaged and they are not raising their hands to give comments because they are watching,” Gaus added. “There is a lot of information for them to retain, especially when they are excited to get started.”

Photo: Art Students Watching Another student Mia explained, “I feel like it is really helpful. She makes the videos fun and interesting to watch while explaining the directions to do. I like how she uses materials to help. She draws stuff to help us get ideas.”

“Mrs. Gaus can be in like twelve places in five minutes. Then, she can have materials she can use that are not in the room,” classmate Zach said of the videos. “They are interesting, so more kids want to pay attention. So, it is easier to follow directions.”

Not only are the students gaining from the new experience but the teacher has become the student again. “I just wanted to get excited about something new and I wasn’t really using technology. So I am teaching myself new things,” Gaus said.

The art teacher dove straight into teaching herself how to make the videos from start to finish. Preferring to work alone, he spends considerable time planning, shooting, and editing her productions.

“I write out what I want to do. The most challenging thing is when I watch myself and make it interesting, and the editing,” Gaus said, minimizing the time and effort she has put into learning how to edit video with iMovie. “Each one is getting better but it is fun for me.”

Very soon, she also will be integrating a set of iPads into the various centers around the classroom, increasing her personal and professional learning and use of technology even more.

Still, the true charm is Gaus the teacher. Her classroom persona is filled with character but the videos amplify her playful nature and comic qualities. She revels in the character she assumes in the videos, exaggerating with energy and doing a number of voices with all kinds of improv puppetry.

As another third-grader, Sophia said, “She has funny voices with her puppies. And the puppies are really cute. She uses them to tell us things and get us happy and excited.”

The students are not the only ones delighted.

Gaus said, “It’s exciting to me and it has made teaching fresh for me again!”

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